Tourmaline: Nedforum (part three)
“Well. I fool myself, no doubt.” She rose too, patting her waist. “Take ten and we’ll split them. I’ll call it lunch and dinner, pay you when you get back.”
She winked and scuttled…and her leaving was another boost to his tranquility. He did stop, toting his sack, to peer into the park’s bushes, knowing the fact of the lights proved nothing of their permanence.
The man from the café was right…dead, also. Thin chance he was in use, like Palma, had been in any way influential. But right. The Jocelynists were not repudiators of authority, not defiers, not martyrs. The term “flaming pit” was a joke, a byword for the lunatic who would throw himself in one, refusing to be reasonable.
They had done it. They had locked their families in their vehicles and driven over cliff’s edges…
Workers organized by Wainwrights and their ilk had tried barricades; having no guns, they had tried homemade spikes. They had dragged the innocent children and cowed wives to safety when they could, let the male Jocelynist lurch off to his doom.
Their grievances were petty grudging. And yet grudging had grown to a religion, a sacrament of this party’s dogma. It seemed they could see themselves slaughtered (while inflicting a grotesque misery on the living and conscious, burning trapped in the heap), and believe, too, that they could hover in satisfaction…
The G.R.A., the Resistance, the Hidtha, the uncommitted citizenry, to feel bad they had brought this on, fallen short on salvation-work.
Thinking these things, Anton started, with that violent rush of rage. A hand had come pawing the sack at his elbow…how he would bash this woman if she’d spilled his treats onto the dirty pavement! But at once his body chemistry tripped a sensor; a potent wave of mixed frequencies enveloped Anton and the Hidtha beggar…
Buzzing in better mood, he peered into her face. Nothing, none of the public controls, could make him less bigoted against these people. He had all his life been told his father or mother had Hidtha blood…
And sharing the facial bones, some darkness of skin that said to strangers, to the spiteful, frightening Jocelynist, tell him to go home…tell him to get out…
Palma hadn’t said it. Mary (possessed of so many freedoms) had said he could always confide in her. Mrs. Leonhardt willed herself not to see it. But his Utdrife kidnapper, and the other, his cellmate… They had made him Hidtha by telling him he was not allowed to be. That he was something lower than an outcast.
“You don’t deserve money,” he said to the woman. “I’ll report you right now.”
It made her laugh.
She released his arm and spat into the mouth of his sack. She sped off across the park, while Anton stood nearly paralyzed by the intensity of the waves.
“Really. Let mine be from the middle.” Sulya spoke at his back, laughing as well. Her being there was his first awareness the beams were off. “Tamp the bad ones with a napkin, scrape away the spot, and give them a good nuking.”
“What? Were you waiting for me? I thought you’d gone back.” He wished she had. He allowed her, in plaintive tones, to know this. “Why did you leave at all?”
“Promises, promises. Is that what you mean? Come along, Trouble.”
His anxious inventory, trailing her, showed him each pastry wrapped already in a napkin. Not so awful…
He sat on a bench, willing Sulya well ahead and not looking over her shoulder. Yes, a glinting thing had burrowed to the bottom. Was he late, messaging, though? That first.
Utdrife, female, soliciting in Park B1Rouge
[!] 12 have reported this
Everyone reported; mobiles were distributed for this purpose alone. On every worker’s desk, every nightstand, sat the old-fashioned wired phones, an alteration pleasing to Mrs. Leonhardt. Over cell you could reach only the government line. You might call for help, view news alerts. Or being Anton, hear a personal encouragement from your service. His inbox told him: Return to your unfinished assignment. And quoted him, so he’d bear this second-skin surveillance in mind: “…poor bitch…not valued.”
Snitching it was not, no ties of loyalty in this new life to betray. Only duty, of neutral reward. You reported to not unbalance your status. He looked in the sack, and the tourmaline was there, a ring, Vonnie’s. It was breathtaking. Not yet the rushing implications of contact, but that a breach of this kind could make its way in. They didn’t know what Anton knew.
He sat on a bench and stared and stared at his psychic wound. They would record him as Anton Leonhardt, obsessing.
However. Normal to anomaly was a narrow margin, sitting pegged by an array of cameras. He lifted his head, spying about for the officer soon to arrive. He stood, walked, took a fussing view of the harmed pastries, acting it. Anton plays Anton…
He smiled, smiled in answer to himself, and this perhaps sat well with their view of him.
His best was all he could do. He pressed the pen with mind alight. Vonnie, Anton did not write in his notes, only, will there be another? Where does she live now? Yes, if she summoned him, he would go, by any means, by whatever means… The suicide attackers could will themselves through sonic walls. The hypnotic state could break. Under great purpose, great self-discipline.
(2020, Stephanie Foster)